Burnaby seems to have finally learned a lesson when it's cutting down trees

Chris Campbell

When word got out in the Heights that some heritage cherry trees were being cut down in March on Boundary Road, residents were livid.

Sure, they were upset at the trees being cut down, but many were especially upset that this action seemed to come without any warning from the City of Burnaby.

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The city’s director of engineering, Leon Gous, said as much in an April 1 letter to the editor.

“Some residents said we could have done a better job communicating about the work and the tree removal. This is valuable feedback which we will take to heart as we seek to improve how we communicate and engage with residents on things that affect them,” Gous wrote.

Central Park residents were equally outraged when the city got out the chainsaws and felled several heritage trees to make way for a new urban trail – seemingly without any warning to those who live near or use the park.

Flash-forward to this past week and clearly the city has learned from these debacles in its communication about plans to raise the dike along the Fraser River on the municipality’s southern edge. 

City crews will start upgrading the 900-metre section of the dike in Fraser Foreshore Park this month and expect to be finished by the end of next year. 

May Phang, Burnaby’s manager of engineering projects, told the NOW the $6-million dike upgrade will raise the dike to 3.9 metres above geodetic elevation – a universal elevation used to measure such projects. The dike section between Glenlyon and Byrne creeks, known as Reach 8, will be the last major upgrade to the Fraser River Dike.

Instead of the city just going ahead with the project, it actually approached the NOW to set up a conference call with two city staff members to outline the project, which will result in some trees being cut down in an area used by people for hiking.

central park trees
Central Park residents were incensed when the City of Burnaby started cutting down trees in November 2018. FILE PHOTO

The city plans to cut down approximately 33 trees – mostly cottonwood and alder – to make way for the larger dike.

“For a kilometre-long stretch, that's not too bad,” said Dave Ellenwood, the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services.  

He said the city will far exceed its own replacement requirements by planting some 200 new trees – mostly maple and willow. 

“The last thing we want to do is cut trees, but whenever we do cut a tree, we have a robust replanting program,” Ellenwood said. 

The existing dike trail will be closed in sections over the roughly 18-month construction, but park users will be diverted to a parallel trail, Ellenwood said. The dike trail will be closed entirely when safety concerns necessitate it, he said. 

Not everyone will see our original story about trees being cut down, so some people will see the trees being cut down and likely freak out. People care a lot about trees.

But it’s nice to see the city getting more proactive about letting residents and tree lovers know when things are happening.

It’s a step in the right direction.

-with additional reporting by Kelvin Gawley

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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